Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The League of Gentlemen

1960, UK, directed by Basil Dearden

Given my general love for the criminal caper film, this is a surprising omission from my prior watching, like Underworld for the American gangster film. The picture is a kind of ur-text for the many, many caper films that followed in subsequent decades, though Dearden's film is carried off with considerably more skill than most of what followed. The one (often very) unpleasant taste comes from the film's treatment of women, who are very much an after-thought, if not seen as an actively malign influence. Hardly inconsistent with the year of production, but no less unsavory for that. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Spy in Black

1939, UK, directed by Michael Powell

Powell & Pressburger's marvelous first collaboration is strikingly beautiful at times, as well as being noteworthy both for its fine suspense-management and for the daring of creating sympathetic, or at least not wholly antipathetic, German characters (presumably at least some filmgoers would have been familiar with Conrad Veidt's personal history, with the actor taking up residence in the UK after the Nazis came to power, which couldn't have harmed). It's not hard to see here the germ of ideas, particularly with respect to the depiction of German characters, that could lead to something as wondrous as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp within a few years.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


1945, France, directed by Jacques Becker

Despite the very different settings, Falbalas shares a great deal in common with Becker's previous film, Goupi Mains Rouges -- the confident sketching in of a very specific time and place, the mastery over multiple characters (with even the most minor among them having a sense of being people rather than plot devices), and the confidence in managing transitions of tone, though the blacker satire of the earlier film is absent here. One of the most fascinating aspects of the picture is Becker's insistent focus on the behind-the-scenes corps of women who transform the designer's work into actual garments -- it lends the film a striking political note, as well as a warmth that surely owes at least something to his work with Jean Renoir (perhaps not always to Renoir's benefit -- Becker was, after all, one of the behind-the-scenes personnel subjugated to the Renoir legend).

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Queen of Katwe

2016, US, directed by Mira Nair

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Emoji Movie

2017, US, directed by Tony Leondis

Seen at my child's school as part of a fundraiser.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The General

1926, US, directed by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton

Having seen a variety of lesser versions, this beautifully restored print from Kino Lorber really allows you to appreciate the genius of Keaton's visual construction, particularly in gags like that  involving a moving train, a loaded cannon, and a key corner on the track, further explored by Kristin Thompson with copious stills. There's little for me to add to the many previous commentaries on the film, though I found myself far more aware on this occasion of the political components -- such as the brilliant gag involving Keaton's obliviousness to both advancing armies, and the concomitant commentary on the insanity of the entire tragedy. 

Friday, January 12, 2018


1927, US, directed by Josef von Sternberg

I loved every minute of this, shot and edited with tremendous verve, and providing the template for many of the gangland riches of the 1930s, most obviously under Hawks's baton. The film's brevity also gives a preview of the quickfire Warner Bros ripped-from-the-headlines style, while the set pieces are handled with exceptional skill and drama. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The Big City

1963, India, directed by Satyajit Ray (aka Mahanagar)

Ray's exceptional film is a warm, pragmatic depiction of the family dynamics that are cast into sharp relief when a young Calcutta woman elects to take a job in order to supplement her family's income. I had only previously seen Ray's Apu films, so this came as a welcome corrective to the idea that his focus is resolutely rural. Mahanangar provides a rich sense of life in early 1960s Calcutta -- the backdrop of economic precariousness is neatly summarized -- as well as a wonderful heroine (played with exceptional subtlety by Madhabi Mukherjee). 

Ray's particular skill here lies in sketching in each member of the family with a distinct and complex character; the refusal to over-simplify the characterizations creates moments of considerable emotional power (without ever leaving us in doubt who the centre of the story is). The film is also luminously beautiful -- there far too many striking and insightful shots to enumerate, though the effort would be a pleasure. 

(I was inspired to watch the film after it appeared in the Siren's end-of-year roundup of treasures). 

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

The Five-Year Engagement

2012, US, directed by Nicholas Stoller


List of all movies

Most of the images here are either studio publicity stills or screen captures I've made myself; if I've taken your image without giving you credit, please let me know.

About Me

Boston, Massachusetts, United States